Last week, food and wine and travel writers from all over the world descended on Adelaide in varying degrees of bleary-eyed jet lag. We were happily lured there to attend a week long celebration of Australian food called Tasting Australia. We flew with Quantas from London on Wednesday night, touched down in Singapore and eventually arrived in Adelaide at 5.00am on Friday morning, amazingly, I was as ‘fresh as a daisy’, because somehow Quantas seem to have managed to design a seat which can be adjusted so you can get a reasonable night’s sleep. A friend had packed me a fantastic picnic from a little Lebanese restaurant in Camden Town called Le Mignon, so I interspersed that with the Neil Perry Quantas airline food.
Even though I didn’t manage to eat it all there was no way I could bring it into Australia. Here is a country that fully understands the importance of strict quarantine laws. They are not about to sacrifice their disease-free status for any reason. There are dire warnings about bringing in, not only food or plants, but also seeds or seed ornaments, eg necklaces or articles stuffed with seeds. Plant produce doesn’t just mean living things – straw packaging, wooden articles, handcrafts, eg wreaths and dried flower arrangements, shells, feather boas, stuffed animals, hides, furs, unprocessed wool and yarns. ……Animal grooming or veterinary equipment, saddles, bridles and birdcages, hiking equipment must all be declared and checked. Bee products are strictly forbidden. Specially trained beagles wait in the luggage claim area to sniff your baggage and there are on-the-spot fines and confiscation for anyone caught flaunting the quarantine laws. By being strict and unwavering on this issue, the Australian government has managed to keep out exotic pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health and the environment.
Kangaroo Island, the third largest island off Adelaide, a 45 minute plane ride from Adelaide, produces some amazing produce and has even stricter quarantine laws. The island, 46% of which has never been cleared of natural vegetation, was discovered in 1802. In the early part of the last century 12 hives of Ligurian bees were brought from Italy – the Italians have since lost this strain through disease, so now the Kangaroo Island is the only pure strain left in the world. There are no foxes or rabbits on the island, consequently there is a thriving free range chicken and egg business on the island, and honey of course. More recently a young couple have started to grow olives and make a fantastic olive oil. The island is still unspoilt despite the fact that tourism is the main industry.
Agriculture was developed after the second world war in 1948, merino sheep were introduced for wool and a vibrant seed potato industry operated. The island is very beautiful and visitors come because it is still underdeveloped. Long avenues of Eucalyptus, Angus and Hereford cattle grazing in the fields, koala bears gorging themselves on the leaves of the gum trees. In Seal Bay one can see the sea lions luxuriating on the beach after a three day fishing trip at sea. At the other end of the island there are fur seals and the breathtaking beautiful rock formation called the Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks. We had flown over from Adelaide to visit the small food producers of Kangaroo Island which is known for its clean green environment. An Englishman John Melbourne has started a marran (similar to crayfish)
farm with 65 ponds. Tuna and scallops are also farmed quite successfully and there are several cheesemakers, including Island Sheep Cheese just beside the Airport, who make three different types of sheeps’ milk cheese, Haloumi, Kefolateri, Manchego and a thick unctuous yoghurt. We had a delicious breakfast at a local B & B called Stranrear, run by the Wheaten family. Anne Wheaten did the best Eggs Benedict I ever ate, the eggs were from their own chickens, the spinach which tastes reminiscent of the sea, was from their garden and the locally cured bacon was delivered by a neighbour that morning. After breakfast an Apple and Mulberry Crunch and lots of lovely preserves, as well as their own eucalyptus honey. We even saw some kangaroos.
Rich and gorgeous, often eaten for breakfast but best for brunch – again the quality of all the components can lift this from the mundane to the extraordinary.
4 free range eggs, preferably organic
4 English muffins or 4 rounds of toast made from good bread preferably
not sliced pan 4 slices cooked ham or 4-8 slices of bacon
Hollandaise sauce- see recipe below.
First make the Hollandaise sauce.
If using bacon heat a very little sunflower oil in a hot frying pan. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the toast or split the muffins. Spread the hot toast or
toasted muffins with butter. Top with a slice of ham or 2 slices of crispy bacon. Gently place the poached egg on top and coat with Hollandaise sauce. Serve extra hot toast and sauce separately.
Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with
Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces . The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 350C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan over hot but not simmering water.
Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or beat into mashed potato or use it to pick up a fish pie.
2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic
110g (4oz) butter cut into dice
1 dessertspoon cold water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.
Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.
It is important to remember that if you are making hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce. Another good tip if you are making hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.
Yoghurt with Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts
In Australia we tasted delicious Eucalyptus honey with toasted almonds from the Barossa Valey, but seek out some good local Irish honey for this recipe. Delicious for breakfast or dessert
Best quality natural greek style yoghurt
Strongly flavoured local Irish honey
Toasted almonds or hazelnuts, sliced
Serve a portion of chilled natural yoghurt per person. Just before serving drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts.
Apple and Blackberry or Mulberry Muesli
4 ozs (110g) fresh blackberries, mulberries or grated dessert apple (preferably Worcester Permain or Cox’s Orange Pippin)
3 heaped tablesp.rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
6 tablespoons water
teasp approx. honey
Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the blackberries or mulberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough but it depends on how sweet the berries are. Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.
Bridge Creek Ginger Muffins
Makes 10 approx.
110g (4 oz) unpeeled ginger root cut into chunks
170g (6 oz) castor sugar
zest of 2 lemons
110g (4 oz) butter
2 eggs, preferably free range
250ml (8 fl oz) buttermilk
285g (10 oz) white flour
½ teasp. Salt
½ teasp. bread soda
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
Grease 1 tray of muffin tins or line with non – stick muffin cases.
Whizz up the ginger in a food processor then put it into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of sugar over a medium heat until the sugar melts. Allow to cool. Cream the butter, add the remainder of the sugar and the finely grated lemon zest, add the eggs one by one and beat well between each addition. Next add the buttermilk and ginger mixture, blend well. Finally stir in the flour, salt and bread soda, until just mixed. Fill the greased muffins tins with the batter, bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, serve warm. (Adapted from The Breakfast Book By Marion Cunningham)